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And taking Mary kindly by the hand, she led her up stairs into 'her mother's room.
"O, mamma, look here!" cried she, at the door, "what a lovely present Mary has brought me ! You never saw a prettier basket, and lovelier flowers are not to be had." "In
The flower-basket pleased the Countess also very much. deed," said she, "it is beautiful! I should like to have it painted. The basket with the flowers, upon which the morning dew still lingers, would make as pretty a group as any the greatest artist ever painted. It does honour to Mary's good taste, but even more to her good heart."
"Stay here a moment, dear child," said she to Mary, and signed to Amelia to follow her into the next room.
"We cannot allow Mary to go unrewarded," said the Countess to her daughter, as she entered the room, "What do you think would be the most suitable present for her?"
Amelia, reflecting some moments, said, "Would not one of my dresses be acceptable to her?-perhaps that one with the red and white flowers, on a dark green ground: it is certainly as good as new. I have not worn it often, but I have outgrown it. For Mary it would make such a pretty fête dress; she can alter it herself to fit her, she is quite clever enough for that. If you do not object to it, dearest mamma, and do not consider it too good, I would give it to her."
"Not at all," said the Countess. "When one gives anything away, it should always be something of use. The green dress will become the little flower-girl exceedingly well."
"Go now, good children," said the Countess kindly, as she returned into the room where Mary was, and began attending to the flowers, in order that they should not fade before the dinnerhour. "As we are expecting company, the little basket shall form the centre ornament on our table. I leave Amelia to thank you."
Amelia hastened into her room, and ordered her maid to fetch the dress. Jettchen-this was her name-remained standing, and said, "Your ladyship is not going to put on that dress?" "No," said Amelia, "I intend giving it to Mary."
"That dress?" cried Jettchen; "does the Countess know that?"
"Bring the dress, and leave the rest to me!"
Jettchen turned quickly round to conceal her spite, and went away, her countenance glowing with passion. the young Countess's dresses out of the wardrobe.
Angrily she took
"Ah, if I only dared tare them all to pieces!" said she; "the detestable little creature! Already she has taken away from me much of my mistress's kind feelings, and now, to boot, she is to rob me of this dress. The cast-off clothes are my lawful right. O, I could scratch the little flower-dealer's eyes out!"
In the meanwhile Jettchen, stifling her anger as well as she could, and feigning a pleasant manner as she entered the room, gave the dress to Amelia.
"Dear Mary," said Amelia, "I have certainly received more costly presents than yours to-day, but not any which have gratified me more. The flowers in that dress are, 'tis true, not so beautiful as yours, but I think, for my sake, you will not despise them. Wear the dress in remembrance of me, and say all that is kind to your father from me."
Mary, taking the dress, kissed the young Countess's hand, and left the castle; whilst Jettchen, full of anger, jealousy, and secret revenge, proceeded silently to finish her mistress's hair. Indeed, it cost her no little self-command, to prevent herself from pulling it, and thus showing how provoked she was.
"Are you angry, Jettchen?" said Amelia, mildly.
"That would indeed be foolish of me," answered Jettchen, "when you are so kind."
"Now you speak reasonably," said the Countess Amelia; “I hope you will always think so.'
Mary, in the mean time, hastened joyfully home with the beautiful dress. The wise parent, however, was not particularly pleased about the handsome present. Shaking his grey head, he said, "I would rather you had not taken the basket to the castle. The dress, indeed, is valuable, inasmuch as it is given by our kind patroness; but I fear it may make others jealous of us, and what were still worse, you, my child, vain. Be well upon your guard, dear Mary, that that be not the case. Humility and modesty is a far more becoming robe to a young girl, than the richest and most costly attire."
THE STOLEN RING.
MARY had scarcely tried on the beautiful dress, and carefully put it away in the cupboard, when the young Countess came into the gardener's little room, pale, trembling, and almost out of breath.
"Good heavens, Mary! what have you done? Mamma's diamond ring is lost! No person came into the room but yourself; come, give it to me quickly, or else it will be a sad affair. Pray give it me directly, and then all shall be hushed up."
Mary turned pale as death with terror.
"What! what do you say? I have not the ring; I did not even see one in the room, nor did I move from the place where I first stood."
"Mary," said the Countess Amelia again, "for the sake of your own happiness, give me the ring. You know not the value of the
stone in it; it cost nearly a thousand thalers. Had you known that, you certainly would not have taken it; you looked upon it as a mere trifle. Give it me, then, I say, and we will forgive you, considering it a youthful indiscretion."
Mary began to weep. "Positively I have not the ring; I never ventured to touch anything that was not mine, far less to steal. My father has so strongly impressed upon me never to take anything belonging to others."
At this moment her father entered the room. He had been working in the garden, and saw the young Countess so hastily come into the house.
My GoD! what is this?" cried he, when he understood what the conversation was about. The good old man was so shocked, that he was obliged to hold by the corner of the table, while he sank down upon a bench. Child," said he, "the theft of such a ring is a crime upon which the sentence of death may be passed. That, however, is not the worst that may happen; think on God's commandment, Thou shalt not steal. We are not only responsible to man for such a deed, but to a higher power,-to the Great Judge, Who looks into all hearts, and Whom we cannot deceive by an untruth or evasion. Have you forgotten GOD and His holy commandments, and in the moment of temptation, no longer remembered my fatherly admonitions? have your eyes been dazzled by the glitter of gold and precious stones, and led you to commit this sin? Then, deny it not; acknowledge it, and give the ring back; that is the only way to amend the fault, at least as much as it can be amended."
Mary, weeping and sobbing, replied, " O, father, indeed, indeed, I have not seen anything of the ring. Ah! if even I had found such an one, I could not have rested until I had placed it in the right owner's hands. Indeed, I have it not!"
"See," said the father, again, "the young Countess Amelia, who, from kindness to you, has come to save you from the hands of justice, who is so good to you, and has given you so expensive a present, does not deserve such conduct, as that you should deceive and impose upon her, to the ruin of yourself. If you have the ring, say so, and the kind Countess will, through her intercession, avert the deserved punishment from you. Mary, be candid, and lie not."
Father," said Mary, "you know well yourself that I never stole a farthing's worth in my life! Not even an apple from a tree, or a handful of grass from the meadow belonging to another would I dare to take; how much less anything that is costly! Believe me, my father, I never told you an untruth in my life!"
'Mary," said her father, yet once more, "behold my grey hairs! bring me not to the grave with a broken heart! spare me this ca
lamity! Say, before GOD, to Whom I hope soon to go, have you the ring? For your own salvation's sake, I pray you, tell the truth."
Mary, looking up to heaven with weeping eyes, and raising her clasped hands, exclaimed, “God knows I have not the ring; so surely as I hope to be saved, so surely have I not the ring."
“Well,” said her father, “I believe you; I do not think you have it. You would not, in the presence of GOD, before this noble lady and your poor old father, tell an untruth; and as my firm conviction is that you are innocent, I am calm. Be so likewise, and fear not. There is only one great evil in the world which we have to fear, and that is sin; prison and death are nothing in comparison. Whatever may become of us now,-even should man abandon us, and be against us, yet we have God for our Friend. He will save us, be assured, and will bring our innocence to light, either in this world or the next."
The young Countess wiped away a tear, and said, “Whilst I hear you speak thus, good people, truly I cannot think you have the ring, but when I reflect upon all the circumstances, it appears to me but too clear. Mamma knows exactly on what part of the table she put it, just before I entered the room with Mary. No other living soul came into the room. That I did not approach the table, Mary will bear witness; she was there alone whilst mamma and I were talking in the next room. When we left mamma, she locked the door, and changed her dress. When dressed, she was about to put her ring on, but it was gone. She searched the room most thoroughly, and even took the precaution not to allow any of our attendants to enter, until she had twicethree times ransacked it; but in vain! Who then can have it ?” "That I cannot understand either!" said the old man. "God has given us a severe trial. Yet, that which Thou hast ordained,” said he, looking up to heaven,-" behold, LORD, here am I! grant Thy grace, O GOD, and it is well."
Truly, I go back with a heavy heart," said the Countess. "This is indeed a melancholy birthday, and will prove a sad affair. Mamma did not say a word about her loss to any person except myself, not wishing to render Mary unhappy; but the thing cannot longer be kept secret. Mamma must wear the ring to-day, as we are expecting papa from town to dine with us, and he would miss it immediately; he made mamma a present of it the day I was born. She has always worn it on my birthday, and is waiting for me to bring it her. Farewell; I will indeed say I hold you to be innocent,—but, will people believe me?”
She left the house with tears in her eyes, both father and daughter being too much stunned to be able to accompany her to the door. The old man, seating himself upon the bank, leaned his head upon
his hand, and the tears rolled down his white cheeks. Mary fell upon her knees before him, and weepingly looked up to him and said, "Indeed, I am innocent of the whole affair, indeed, I am innocent !"
Her father raising her up, and looking long into her blue eyes, answered, Yes, Mary, you are innocent. No guilty person possesses that pure and honest glance."
"O, father," cried Mary, "How will this end! What will be its issue! Ah! come what might, if it fell alone on me, I could bear it willingly; but that you, you should suffer on my account, that is to me the most dreadful part of it!" "Trust in GoD, and be courageous," said her father. "Not a hair of our head can be hurt against His will. Whatever may happen, it comes from God; therefore, it is well, and for our good, and what do we want more? Do not allow yourself to be terrified, but remain firm to truth. However they may threaten you, or even whatever promises they make, deviate not one hair's breadth from the truth, and wound not your conscience. A good conscience is a soft pillow-even in prison. We shall now indeed be separated from each other; your father will no longer be able to console you, dear Mary! Trust then with firmer faith in your Heavenly FATHER. He, the mighty protector of all innocence, cannot be taken away from you!"
At this moment the door was suddenly thrown open; the officers of justice entered the room, and Mary, giving one loud shriek, clasped her arms round her father.
Separate them," cried the Bailiff, his eyes glowing with passion. "Bind the daughter in chains, and thrown her into prison. In the meanwhile place the father in close custody. Keep the house and garden well guarded and watched, and allow no person to enter until I and the police have thoroughly searched them."
The officers tearing Mary with force from the arms of her father, whom she still held firmly clasped, chained her. She fainted, and in that state was taken away. When the father and daughter were taken out into the street, a number of people were already gathered together. The history of the ring had spread all over the little village. There was a tumult, a throng around the gardener's little house, as if it had been on fire; the most different opinions were heard. So good as Jacob and Mary had been to all persons, yet there were not wanting those, who, full of joy at the misfortune of others, made the most malicious remarks. Because Jacob and Mary, through industry and economy, made a good appearance in the world, they were envied by many.
"Now we know," said they, "where they got their money from. We never could understand it before. Ah! ah! it's easy enough to live better and dress finer than other honest people in the village, that way."